Anyone who has trained with me, or has watched me train, or has watched me work out on my own, will notice that I make notes, I keep records and I follow a planned workout program on each visit to the gym.
“1-2-3-done.” Move on. “1-2-3-done.” Move on. “1-2-3-done.”… and so on.
In contrast, you may notice that others move randomly from machine to machine, or bench to bench, seeming to “make it up” on the fly.
A dumbbell press here. A lateral raise there. And squat?… “er, maybe next time”!
“You just can’t get there from here…”
Our bodies are designed to adapt to a repeated movement pattern and the effort that it requires to execute it. Once it adapts to that movement and effort, it doesn’t need to adapt any further. Lift a weight over and over for a couple of weeks and it becomes easier to do, muscles get stronger, body gets leaner.
If you keep lifting that same amount of weight, in the same way for a few more weeks, no further progress needs to be made by the body. It has fully adapted. Which is why it’s important that your program include similar exercises for a certain period of time. Simply put – it needs repetition to adapt.
Making constant changes or modifications to your routine can halt the process of physical adaptation. Progress will never maintain an upwards path.
Once your body has adapted, THEN it’s time to introduce a “new” repetition so that your body will progress further.
This is the called the principle of Progressive Overload, and here’s how to apply it to your own workout:
- Write down the order and detail of your workout – whether it’s cardio, weights or stretching.
If strength training, mark down the weight, the # of repetitions, the # of sets AND Yes or No for each exercise (i.e. achieved all).
If cardio – mark down the time, the speed, the # of intervals, the average heart rate.
- Keep to the workout until you feel that the exercises have become “easy” – which might be defined as being too simple, too light, too short, not fatiguing enough… if you’re working hard enough - that time shouldn’t come for 3 or 4 weeks.
- THEN change the workout to a more challenging level – up to feeling hard again, up to just making your reps, up to feeling really fatigued.
Until the cardio-vascular and muscular systems are repeatedly challenged, and are given adequate time to respond and strengthen, there will be NO improvement to your conditioning, NO improvement to your body composition, and NO improvement to your fitness level!
Doug Leavers, BES, RPT